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December 11th, 2002

Cover songs

Last night on the late night talk show Adam Durvitz was singing Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", which simultaneously makes me wonder if Amy Grant, who did her own version, should have joined Counting Crows instead of marrying Vince Gill, and also wonder if we can now look forward to the RuPaul cover of Ms. Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon". Today I found myself praising Elvis Costello at lunch, only I remember twenty five years ago when that was a bold new thing to do, and not the sort of thing they spend NPR fund-raisers doing. Friday night is my wife's company's Christmas party, and I find myself actually hoping that this year, like last, they have karaoke. Don't get me wrong--I don't sing very well. But I just love the participatory silliness of the whole idea. I actually thought on the way home that I should brush up on the lyrics of "Jealous Guy", but then I realized any karaoke mix would be the frenetic original John Lennon version and not the slow, hip, so-sheer-so-chic deathly sad Bryan Ferry cover. For those who have not figured it out from my idiom, I speak with a mild Arkansas accent, which time in Los Angeles did not quite deaden. This suggests to me that I should be singing Eagles songs or "China Grove" or some Charlie Daniels Band song. The problem, though, is that "I Can't Tell You Why", my favorite Eagles song, requires my falsetto to be almost Sparks-quality, and I am not sure my falsetto is any longer quite ready for prime time. Charlie Daniels Band songs lately all seem to be about blowing up other people real good while draping oneself in the American flag, and "Devil went down to Georgia" is not quite me. Now "China Grove" has possibilities, because any song about a San Antonio suburb cannot be all bad. Undoubtedly, should they have karaoke and should I elect to sing, I'll do something easy for my flat, toneless voice, like Talking Heads or Cheap Trick. Last year's Xmas party was my stunningly on-key version of "Alison" and a very Ferryesque "Love is the Drug". Overweight men in business suits were born to sing "Love is the Drug". My very best karaoke experience of all time, though, was a law firm retreat in 1992, when during the yacht ride off Marina del Rey in Los Angeles, I did my first-ever karaoke performance, Prince's "Little Red Corvette". The lyrics were arguably a bit risque for law firm retreat use, particularly if one assesses that I am personally in general more boring than sliced bread, but the rousing ovation was nonetheless sincere. So I'm pretty psyched to sing karaoke again--maybe they'll have "Young Americans" or "Blinded by the Light". I wonder if I can still do "Blinded by the Light" from memory.
Ever since I saw The Last Waltz I've had a yearning to sing Neil Young's "Helpless", but in order to karaoke something, one should really pretty much know all the words, and my storehouse of knowledge of "Helpless" runs out at "There is a town in north Ontario". Well, if I lose courage, I'll just belt out "Surrender", as I've done before, or perhaps "Burning Down the House".

We decorated our Christmas tree tonight. I don't apologize for the fact that I utterly love Christmas. I don't make much of a hoopla about it anymore, but it still is a warm, good time for me. But that's all week after next. This week I'll be content to meet my deadlines. Somehow the Christmas spirit makes me want to karaoke "Greensleeves", but I really don't see the connection.

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